Heavy music was dealt a huge blow this week, with the shuttering of independent label Hydra Head Records, a casualty of the recording industry and to some extent, its own uncompromising curatorial tastes.
From Hydra Head’s Aaron Turner:
The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all. The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue. It is a harsh but undeniable reality, and one which we are attempting to confront with as much integrity and grace as is afforded by the circumstances.
Hydra Head played a role in turning me on to a whole host of bands: Torche, Daughters, Boris, Botch, Dalek, Harvey Milk, These Arms and Snakes, Keelhaul, Old Man Gloom. I have Hydra Head to thank in part, for keeping me into metal at a point where the genre started to bore me.
But what breaks my heart is that I was certain a niche label like Hydra Head would easily beat the odds. Experimental, commercially risky music like this has a passionate niche audience, and as a big believe in Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans concept, I always assumed such a niche fanbase would be able to keep a small label like Hydra Head alive, considering the major/larger labels have no interest in supporting this kind of music. Now, I don’t know anymore. I want to blame someone, but don’t really know who. Do I blame the mainstream music industry? The internet? “fans” that don’t want to pay for music? Who knows. I do know that Hydra Head’s contributions to underground metal will be hard to replace.
And in my case, I will probably be listening to a lot more K-Pop in the immediate future.